Greig remembered as passionate and funny

With a tearful tribute, a lot of laughs and a smattering of broad-brimmed hats, Tony Greig was given a fitting farewell at the SCG yesterday.

The former England cricket captain and respected commentator died on December 29 in Sydney after suffering a heart attack during a battle with lung cancer.

Family in attandance at Tony Greig’s memorial service at Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Family in attandance at Tony Greig’s memorial service at Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Tony Greig

Tony Greig

On Sunday, he was given a touching memorial led by his wife Vivian, who broke down during her goodbye speech.

"He could make anything sound special and make anyone feel special," Mrs Greig told the audience of 300.

"He gave us confidence when we faltered, he gave us strength when felt drained.

"He gave us laughter when we felt like crying. But most of all he gave us love."

Greig was a man whose stature was not limited to his imposing frame and whose impact extended far beyond his achievements on the cricket pitch.

In the stands of the SCG, commentary doyen Richie Benaud sat side by side with Greig's old sparring partner Bill Lawry, who delivered the eulogy - and drew large applause for his Billy Birmingham-inspired impressions of Greig and Benaud.

Highlighting the influence Greig had on the international game, England champions Ian Botham and David Gower sent recorded messages, while letters from Indian legend Ravi Shastri and Sri Lankan hero Arjuna Ranatunga were read.

They all painted a picture of a genuine cricket tragic born on the eastern cape of South Africa who became a champion England allrounder before settling in Australia.

But above all they described a man who had a deep appreciation of the game.

"Where did his allegiance lie? His allegiance lay with the sport of cricket," Mrs Greig said.

"He loved watching attacking cricket. He loved watching the Aussies every summer.

"He loved watching Arjuna Ranatunga lead his side in the early '90s.

"He honoured any side that honoured the game."

Greig was remembered as one of the game's great innovators who spearheaded the World Series cricket movement alongside Kerry Packer and embraced technology - to much amusement on occasion.

Mrs Greig recalled a story she felt encapsulated the bravery - and stupidity - of her husband's love of the new.

"Firstly as a player wearing a leather scrum cap and later a crash helmet as a sensible form of protection.

"Quite early on I asked him why he didn't wear a helmet in his career and he patiently explained that he felt it took away from the test of courage to face a fast bowler.

"Then came [Australian pace duo Dennis] Lillee and [Jeff] Thompson and he reconsidered the helmet.

"I was appalled. [I said] 'You mean to tell me that it took over 100 years after someone had invented a box before you came along to think about protecting your head?"

Lawry described Greig's ability to spend hours in front of his laptop keeping up to date with every seemingly insignificant match report from the corners of the planet - much to the amusement of his less thorough ally, Lawry.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard attended the service, lauding Greig as "a towering cricket figure".

Both the Australian and Sri Lankan squads were in attendance, as were Australian stars Shane Watson, Brett Lee and Andy Bichel. AAP


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